This trip to Costa Rica was one of the most valuable educational experiences in my life so far. It taught me the importance of coffee, organization, flexibility and frustrations that play a role in the life of an international journalist. I understand, now, how easy it is to burn out when working abroad, especially for only a short amount of time. There are so many stories to cover and so little time.
This trip offered me so much more than just journalism experience, though. All the lectures we attended and the locals we talked to opened my mind to more that is happening in the world. I learned about border conflicts, immigration issues, global warming, sustainable living, ecotourism, agricultural issues, endangered species and many more issues Costa Rica must deal with.
I feel very fortunate I had the support of an awesome team, excellent guides and a Costa Rican institute to help set interview opportunities for us. I definitely have more respect now for someone that can just go to a country and find stories and sources on their own, especially under deadline. I only wish we could have stayed longer and spent more time working in Costa Rica. I can’t wait to go back.
My last moments in Costa Rica amplified the experience’s value. I watched men and women in the Liberia airport lean over the food counter, waiting on over-priced breakfast burritos; I counted a dozen “Pura Vida!” t-shirts on the people who milled about. I never saw a burrito on our menus in the country, and the highly-saturated t-shirt graphics clashed so harsly. Did we even see the same Costa Rica?
My Costa Rica served rice and beans with every meal. My Costa Rica was full of misty gray-green cloud forest skies; it harbored intelligent, dedicated and inspiring people. Costa Rica did deliver that pura vida spirit, but it was the pure life you keep inside of you and live out. It wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly more beautifully complex than a tree frog t-shirt communicates.
Going in without a plan worked for me this time. I returned with four notebooks weighed down by sketches, quotes, observations and ideas. While the photographers made their pictures, I stayed busy thinking, “how can I make others feel this?” and scribbling whatever sense or analogy came to mind. Hopefully our readers felt a bit of that.
This was my first opportunity to act purely as a journalist, with no other classes or responsibilities. I loved it.
These two weeks might mark a turning point in my college career, where I start making more decisions that position me for work as a serious freelancer. The imperative to accurately report on issues became real for me, as I explored a country with so much research, so much beauty and so much exploitation running concurrently. I want to do something to help facilitate a responsible use of resources and reconnect people to nature. Gracias, Costa Rica. I owe you one.
For those who don’t know, I’m on record as an outdoors un-enthusiast. Outside (get it?) of playing catch or spending a couple hours on the beach, I usually choose the indoor option. After this experience, I can confidently say that the rain forest can give any jerk an new appreciation for nature. All kidding aside, I couldn’t have spent the first two weeks of 2011 in a better place. I learned so much about topics I honestly had no experience with.
I was expecting my recently repaired ankle to hamper my trip after a while, but the group and the lectures kept me going. I got ice when I needed it, and everyone knew when I needed to slow down a little bit. My physical therapist even thinks the trip helped my recovery because I was actively thinking about where I stepped for two entire weeks.
I said in my expectations, “I’m hoping the out of country stuff will be a big part on its own, but adding the blogging experience to my repertoire is something that should be beneficial with the ever increasing move of content to the Internet. I’ve also never done anything with nature in my writing before, so I’m looking to see what I can do with the opportunity.”
The blog is a great tool I am expecting to use during my job application process, so I would say that part was a success. I never really wrote about nature itself, but it did afford me the chance to write a couple posts about organizations or people working with it. It played to my style perfectly, and I don’t regret for a second making the trip down to Costa Rica.
What was two weeks in the lush country of Costa Rica, now feels like a
blur. I feel extremely lucky for everything we experienced — whether it was planned or unplanned. Overall I couldn’t ask for a better trip. Almost every expectation I had going was surpassed.
Each day I found myself completely blown away by a sight, new information or, simply, just remembering where I was. One of my goals was to try to improve my Spanish skills while immersed in the culture, but I found it somewhat difficult when we had a translator (the wonderful Amy), or if the other person spoke some English as well. But, words such as perisoso (sloth), murciélago (bat) and surfeando (surfing) will stay with me and always bring me back to the trip.
There are almost too many memories to begin to recount, and I am already anxious for the next time I find myself in Costa Rica. Pura Vida.
When writing my expectations for the trip on the flight to Costa Rica, I wrote the main thing I wanted was “to learn about the experience of travelling as a journalist.” For two weeks I had “the experience” every minute of the day, and I picked up a great deal from it. These lessons included how to pick coffee, how to work with a translator, and everything in between. However, the most important journalism lesson I learned was flexibility.
Flexibility isn’t a new concept for me when shooting photos; however, when plans for a story change partway through an international trip, flexibility takes a new meaning. I expected agriculture to be a small part of the larger story I would work on about forest preservation and the impact of tourism. After four or five days, it became clear that Costa Rican agriculture would become the focus of any larger project I did. Hopefully, this will be just one more step in being able to be more flexible when it comes to photojournalism.